Are The Ten Tribes the Same as Gentiles? by Yair Davidiy
The Lost Ten Tribes will Return. At present they are still in Exile. Brit-Am, Movement of the Ten Tribes, has proven that the Lost Ten Tribes today are to be found amongst Western Peoples. Others hold different opinions. The status of the Ten Tribes at present according to the Bible and Jewish Law is the same, for all intents and purposes, as that of all Gentiles. In the future they will return and re-accept the Torah but at present they are not legally obliged to do so. The article below partially explains the situation. We quote in full a Jewish essay, "Reinstating semichah: In search of the Lost Tribes"by Yitzchok Lobenstein, that presupposes a contrary opinion. This involves the subject of "semicha" and Restoring the Sanhedrin. The arguments are replied to and the factual background clarified. Jewish Sources located the Sons of Moses and the Ten Tribes in Western Europe and the British Isles. Biblical Sources (as well as Rabbinical ones) emphasize that the Ten Tribes are destined to return.

Are The Ten Tribes the Same as Gentiles?

Much Ado About Nothing or Little Ado About Plenty?
Brit-Am Commentary to a Late Rabbinical Incident Concerning the Ten Tribes

1. Introduction. Sanhedrin,
Semicha, Revival of the Sanhedrin.
2. The Incident. The article "Reinstating semichah: In search of the Lost Tribes" by
Yitzchok Lobenstein. Idea that part of the Ten Tribes still kept the Torah and never lost it.
3. Brit-Am Commentary and Remarks.
Need in our time to find and identify the Lost Ten Tribes. Deranged traveller mislead
Menasseh ben Israel. Rabbi Avichail also mislead by fantasy stories. Eldad HaDani and the Children of Moses. Lost Ten Tribes technically have the same legal status as Gentiles. Ten Tribes will Return.
Return of the Ten Tribes in the Bible.

1. Introduction
When the Children of Israel received the Torah, Moses was their leader. Moses was commanded to appoint seventy elders.



 This was the first Sanhedrin. The members of the Sanhedrin were appointed by Moses who laid (Hebrew "Samakh" from which we get the word vatiously transliterated as "semicha" "smicha", or "semikha") his hands upon them (Numbers  11:16-25). The elders later appointed their successors and this appointment is referred to as "semicha" even though they did not necessarily physically lay hands upon them.  This chain of hands-on semikhah continued through the time of the Second Temple, and at least until the time of Hillel II.
[Nowadays the ordination of a Rabbi is called "Semicha" since it parallels the "semicha" of the Torah but it is not the same and would not give the person receiving it the right to be part of a Sanhedrin.]

In Ancient Times, there was a Main Sanhedrin of 71 members: The extra one (i.e. 71 instead of 70)  being the Nasi or Prince in the same way that Moses had been appointed over the original 70. The Main Sanhedrin was usually situated at Jerusalem. In addition, each Tribe had its own Minor Sanhedrin of 23 members. Major cities could also, in some cases,  have their own Minor Sanhedrin. In addition there were local courts in which the judges were subservient to the nearest Sanhedrin.
To make a Sanhedrin 70 members with "semicha" are needed. A member of the Sanhedrin was considered to have "semicha". He was officially appointed. This "semicha" brought with it authority to make certain decisions that without "semicha" could not be made. Someone who has "semicha" can pass it onto others.
"Semicha" is obtained by receiving it from someone who already has "semicha" but the line has been broken and therefore "semicha" in the Torah sense has ended. Theoretically "semicha" could be renewed if there was  an almost unanimous agreement amongst the leading Rabbis of the time who agree that one of their members should be considered as having "semicha" and then he can give it to others. If he gave "semicha" to seventy others a Sanhedrin could be created. This possibility however has proven difficult to put into practice.
The concepts of "Semicha" and the Sanhedrin are closely related but not necessarily the same. Theoretically "semicha" could be revived without the Sanhedrin. On the other hand, the renewal of the Sanhedrin is dependent upon the revival of Semicha. There have been attempts in the past to restore "semicha" and the Sanhedrin.
Rabbi Jacob Berab in 1538 attempted to restore the Sanhedrin in Tsfat (northern Galilee, in Israel) but since the Rabbis of Jerusalem disagree with him he was unsuccessful. The Jerusalem Rabbis who opposed this initiative were headed by Ralbach (Rabbi Levi ben Yakov ibn Chaviv, 1480-1545).

In our Era, a much publicized recent attempt (2004) to revive the Sanhedrin has not been widely accepted partly because it received no support from leading Rabbis.

Reviving the Sanhedrin could involve matters concerning the Ten Tribes. Recognition and Acceptance by the Sanhedrin could pave the way for reconciliation with Judah. Numerous other matters and various problems could be solved if a Sanhedrin existed. The Sages understood that a renewed Sanhedrin would precede the Final Redemption. In Judah the unbroken line of appointed authorities with genuine "semicha" died out due to persecution by the Romans. It would greatly facilitate matters if instead of having to renew "semicha" a court could be found somewhere whose members still had it.

The article below speaks of an idea that maybe amongst the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel there still existed those who had received "semicha" through an unbroken line going back to First Temple times. If such was the case these people with "semicha" could appoint seventy worthy dignitaries from Judah and a valid Sanhedrin would appear! The article involves someone who took it into his head to find the Ten Tribes and get "semicha" from them.

Our studies show us however that no-one with "semicha" is to be found amongst the Ten Tribes.
We understand that the Lost Ten Tribes before their Exile had turned entirely away from the Torah and after their exile were considered completely like Gentiles from a legal point of view.  This is the major and authoritative opinion.  [We will return below to this theme in section. 3. Brit-Am Commentary and Remarks.

Other ideas however also existed. These ideas may be traced to Eldad HaDani and those who came after him.

The article below is somewhat surprising. The Rabbinical hero of the story below appears to have been uninformed as to what the legal-halachic position concerning the Lost Ten Tribes was supposed to be.  He also seems unaware of other factors.

Anyway, please read the account and then see our 3. Brit-Am Commentary and Remarks.

2. The Incident. Quotes from an article by Yitzchok Lobenstein
Forwarded by Amnon Goldberg, Tsfat, Israel
Subject: Semichah and the Lost Tribes

This article, part of a series on the quest to restore the institution of the ancient rabbinical semichah ordination, appeared in the 4-3-10 London Jewish Tribune:

Reinstating Semichah

In search of the Lost Tribes

by Yitzchok Lobenstein


IN this, our final article on the history of semichah, we discuss the attempt to reinstate semichah a second time in the year 5591 (1831). After a number of the great talmidim of the Vilna Gaon settled in Eretz Yisroel, Rav Yisroel of Shklov made a second attempt at renewing semichah. However, he was well aware of the controversy between the Ri Beirav and the Ralbach 300 years earlier - as discussed at length last week - so he used a different approach.
The whole idea of needing to reinstate semichah is based on the words of the Rambam. He writes that we see from the words of the novi [Prophet] that the Sanhedrin will be reinstated before the final geulah [Redemption] unfolds. Based on this, the Rambam [Maimonides] was of the opinion that a new line of semichah can be established based on its acceptance by all Rabbonim [Rabbis] in Eretz Yisroel [Land of Israel]. As we have discussed at length, this idea did not find favour with some Rabbonim in the year 1538, so Reb [Rabbi] Yisroel of Shklov had to think up a new method of achieving the same result, namely that semichah be brought back into practice.
The semichah introduced by the Rambam was based on starting a new semichah not really connected to Moshe Rabbeinu [Moses Our Teacher]. The Radvaz (Sanhedrin 4:11), however, suggests that there maybe ways of finding some remaining link to the original line of semichah, whose chain dates back to the days of Moshe Rabbeinu. There are three options that are discussed in the meforshim [Commentators].

A. We know that the appearance of Eliyohu Hanovi [Elijah the Prophet] will precede that of Moshiach, and possibly Eliyohu Hanovi can reinstate the semichah. Eliyohu Hanovi himself may well have received semichah either from Moshe Rabbeinu (according to the Medrash that Eliyohu is Pinchos [Pineas]) or from Achiyah Hashiloni (according to other opinions), and he could thus give someone else semichah and continue its lineage. It is questionable if Eliyohu will come before Moshiach [Massiah], but since the Rambam himself writes that he WILL come before Moshiach there should be no reason not to rely on Eliyohu for the semichah (Rebbi Yonoson Eibeshitz (Sefer Tumim 1:2).

The Ri Beirav (in Responsa Ralbach) held that Eliyohu is not a viable option for re-starting semichah since Eliyohu left this world after he received his semichah, even though he has come back to life. The Ralbach argued that, since he is resurrected with all his previous wisdom, there should be no reason not to allow him to give semichah.

Another problem with relying on Eliyohu is that one needs a panel of three semuchim to give semichah to a new candidate, and Eliyohu will be on his own.

B. When Moshiach makes his first appearance (but not his final one, as some sources say there will be a time after his first appearance when he will hide himself again, before making his final appearance with the final geulah) he may be able to enact the semichah before the final Redemption is set.

The Radvaz [Rabbi David ben Zimra, 1480-1573, Egypt] makes such a suggestion, arguing with the idea of the Rambam of introducing a new semichah. However, Rambam in a manuscript not printed in our editions of his work already refuted this idea of the Radvaz. The Ralbach quotes a manuscript of the Rambam arguing that since Moshiach himself hasn't got semichah, there is no way he can give anyone else semichah!

C. The final suggestion offered by the Radvaz is that of relying on the Ten Lost Tribes becoming revealed before the geulah [Redemption]. They may still have a link to the original chain of semichah, uninterrupted from the time of Moshe Rabbeinu.

The first two suggestions, of re-instatement by Eliyhou or Moshiach, are not in our hands at all: we must just do teshuvah [Repent] and daven [pray] for the geulah, but we cannot actively start the process. Reb Yisroel of Shklov held that it is our duty to do hishtadlus [efforts] in anticipation of finding the Ten Lost Tribes and trying to establish whether their line of semichah has indeed not been severed over the years of golus [Exile].
In 1831 (5591) Reb Yisroel of Shklov wrote some interesting letters. In one, to the Ten Tribes, he questions their authenticity and whether they have a proper semichah that dates back to the original semichah.

Reb Yisroel was indeed convinced that one could contact the Ten Tribes. The basis of this assumption was from the words of Eldad Hadani who said he came from the Ten Lost Tribes. In the year 880 CE (4640) Eldad Hadani reported that amongst the Ten Lost Tribes there was still semichah and they practised all the halochos which are unique to a Beis Din [Rabbinical Court] which has semichah. Reb Yisroel also referred to a letter from the year 1646 (5406), that was apparently written by one of the Ten Lost Tribes, which calls them "Bnei Moshe" [Sons of Moses] and attests to their having and using semichah.
The problem that followed was finding the Ten Lost Tribes. Where are they? Can they be reached today?

In Reb Yisroel's letter he lists numerous proofs that they can indeed be located and reached. Reb Yisroel also outlines - based on many proofs - their location.

Reb Yisroel's burning desire, indeed his ideology, was fuelled by the many sources in Chazal [Literature of the Sages] that say the Ten Lost Tribes are to be sought out and returned before the geulah. He even assumed - claiming he had proof - that the Medrash calling for the search for the Ten Tribes was referring to his generation.

It took some years before a suitable candidate and funds were found to enable the dangerous trip to locate the Ten Lost Tribes to be undertaken. Finally a candidate was found, Reb Boruch of Pinsk. Unfortunately, not very long after his departure news arrived that Reb Boruch had been killed

Reb Yisroel said subsequently that Reb Boruch had not succeeded since he deviated from his mission en route, when after two years of fruitless searching he took up a job as a doctor. Reb Yisroel didn't give up though, and in 1834 (Adar 5594) he was searching for another shaliach [emissary]. There was a rebellion in [the city of] Tzefas in [the month of] Sivan of that year, followed by the famous earthquake in Teves 5597 which claimed more than 2000 lives, and Reb Yisroel and his idea were blamed for these tzoros [troubles].

His mission remains unfulfilled.

3. Brit-Am Commentary and Remarks.

The above article shows the importance of finding the Lost Ten Tribes in the thinking of some Rabbinical scholars.
"the many sources in Chazal [i.e. Literature of the Sages] that say the Ten Lost Tribes are to be sought out and returned before the geulah" i.e. The Ten Tribes must be identified and their Return initiated before the Final Redemption can take place.
Note too:
# He [i.e. Rabbi Yisroel ben Shmuel of Shklov] even assumed - claiming he had proof - that the Medrash calling for the search for the Ten Tribes was referring to his generation.##
Yisroel ben Shmuel of Shklov (1770-1839)
Yisroel ben Shmuel of Shklov may or may not have had such a Midrash as he claimed. It is doubtful and even if he did have, A Midrash is not the same as Scripture itself. Midrashim may be used to help us understand Scripture or to clarify doubtful points of interpretation.  Midrashim however may well contradict each other or reflect opinions that are not accepted. In principle Midrashim are sayings of the Sages not on legal points and without the authority of the Talmud. Nevertheless, the source of some of the Midrashim is uncertain.
Even so, it is interesting that the idea existed that the identity of Lost Ten Tribes had to be revealed in his generation. Our own times are not that far removed and could even be considered to be an extension of the period in question.
Rabbi Yisroel ben Shmuel of Shklov appears to have been laboring under misconceptions that may be attributed in art to reports attributed to Eldad haDani.

Eldad HaDani
 Eldad HaDani was a Khazar.
We have written about Eldad in our book, "The Khazars. Tribe 13".
This book is in our opinion indispensable for understanding Eldad haDani and the Khazars in general.
 Eldad himself was a Khazar. He appeared in the 800s CE. Eldad testified that the Khazars descended from the Tribes of Simeon and half-Manasseh and from other sections of the Ten Tribes. The Khazars along with members of the peoples around them were to convert to Judaism. This took place in stages. In the time of Eldad some of the Khazars practised full-scale Judaism and some only partially though later nearly all of the Khazars did fully convert. The actual numbers involved however were not necessarily that large. The Khazars were descended from the Ancient Scythians most of whom had already migrated to the west of Europe.
[The case of the Khazars helps prove the Israelite Origins of their kinfolk amongst the Gentiles in Western Europe and serves as a precedent for the Ten Tribes in general. That is one of the several reasons why one should acquire our work, "The Khazars. Tribe 13", on the subject.] 
The account of Eldad contains legends and traditions concerning the Lost Ten Tribes in his region and elsewhere. Several different versions of his account exist. The earliest version was printed in 1480. Several other versions later appeared. A collection (with valuable editing and notes) was published by Abraham Epstein 1891 (Presburg). The different accounts have been edited and added to and in effect comprise compendiums of extant legends concerning the Lost Ten Tribes in general, no matter where they were and with no particular connection to Eldad.

The articles says:
# Reb Yisroel also referred to a letter from the year 1646 (5406), that was apparently written by one of the Ten Lost Tribes, which calls them "Bnei Moshe" [Sons of Moses] and attests to their having and using semichah. #

We do not know whether indeed such a letter was written or who wrote it. It could be that some impostor, eccentric, deranged enthusiast, or someone else had written something that was understood to be a claim that they represented the Children of Moses or the Lost Ten Tribes.
This phenomenon is known in Jewish history.
After the discovery of the Americas a large number of Christian writings claimed that the natives of North and South America were descended from the Lost Ten Tribes. The idea was that via Scythia they had somehow reached the New World. Many claims were made concerning perceived similarities between the native customs and those of the Ancient Hebrews. These exaggerations, misunderstandings,  and occasional imaginations were accepted as truth by many savants of the time. Jews, being naturally well-read and up-to-date, were also affected.
Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel (1604-1657) was mislead by a Jewish traveller, Antonio de Montesinos, who earnestly swore that a native of Ecaudor had emerged from the jungle and identified himself as Jewish by uttering the words "Shema Yisrael" [Hear Israel, Deuteronomy 6:4] in Hebrew.  It is now thought that the person in question may have been suffering from over-exposure to the elements. People who are suffering from exhaustion, lack of food and water, cold and heat, physical sickness, etc are liable to imagine things.
Similar cases occur quite frequently concerning the assumed Israelite origins of the Amerindians. Proofs have been forged. [This does not mean that none of the Amernindians definitely descend from Ancient  Israel only that we should be aware that not all of the evidence is necessarily reliable. ]

In our day Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail apparently was mislead by all kinds of fairy tales (still to be found on the Web) about Afghan Pathans keeping Jewish customs. These fantasies are being perpetuated by all kinds of interested parties.

The Sons of Moses ["Bnei Moshe"]
[ The Sons of Moses in Jewish legend are at times referred to as being together with the Jewish Exiles in Babylon and at other times as accompanying or located alongside the Ten Tribes. ]

The above article says,
# Reb Yisroel also referred to a letter from the year 1646 (5406), that was apparently written by one of the Ten Lost Tribes, which calls them "Bnei Moshe" [Sons of Moses] and attests to their having and using semichah. #
The letter in question was evidently the work of an over-enthusiastic forger. Nevertheless, the Bnei Moshe (whether they ever really existed or not) represent genuine traditions involving the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.

Arab sources (derived from Jewish ones) said that the "Sons of Moses" were in the far east in Gabrassa and in the far west in Gabalk. Gabrassa relates apparently to Turkestan in east Scythia where the ancestors of the Anglo-Saxons and others had sojourned for some time prior to continuing westward in the era 200-400 c.e. with migrants to "Scandinavia" going west later, and those who remained eventually forming part of the Khazar nation.
"GABALK" was an Judeo-Arabic term for western Europe especially the Frankish realm of France.  Jewish Traditions existed that the Lost Ten Tribes were in Western Europe as may be seen by the Commentaries of Rashi (on Obadiah 20:1) and Nachmanides (Sefer haGeulah, part one).
The Sons of Moses were associated with the Rechabites and the Ten Tribes.
Jewish Sources from the Second Temple Period located the Rechabites in the Blessed Isles. Similarly later Jewish-Arab traditions also said that the Sons of Moses were alongside the Sons of Aed (i.e. the Ten Tribes) in the "Isles of the Blessed" which in Classical Literature referred to the British Isles especially Ireland.

Aed and the Lost Tribes in Britain. The Lost Ten Tribes in Celtic and Arabic Lore.

The Sons of Moses

Rabbi Avraham Isaac haCohen Kook (18651935,leading Rabbi of "Palestine" before the founding of Israel) said  ("Mamaari HaRiah" pp.194-6 and Hascomah to "Kol Mevaser") there are three types of Lost Israelites:
1. Descendants of Jethro (through Yonadav son of Receb) who have become lost but will one day return.
2. The Lost Ten Tribes.
3. The Sons of Moses who formerly developed along their own lines in the North. They had had their own system of worship and had kept somewhat apart from the rest of Israel. They were exiled as one group and had become lost.
Brit-Am Commentary to Judges 18

The Khazars were partly Jews who had never lost their origin; partly Jews who had assimilated not long before and were "returning"; and partly descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel who still had vague traditions of their Israelite ancestry; and partly others of possible non-Israelite origin. All these different elements gave rise to a mixture of traditions and understandings that Eldad transmitted, and upon which others later imposed all kinds of interpolations.

The Talmud and the Law.
Yebamot 17 a/b says that the Lost Ten Tribes are to have the status of Gentiles for all intents and purposes.
The Commentary "Keren Orah" (R. Yitzchak of Karlin, 1780s) sums up the case quite succinctly:
# From their understanding of Scripture (Hosea 5:7 ) the Sages declared the Ten Tribes to have the same status as Gentiles for all intents and purposes. They made this decision through the authority of the Prophets and the Divine Inspiration they [i.e. the Sages] had...all others [i.e. Jews]
who were assimilated amongst the Gentiles are assumed to have the same status [as the Ten Tribes, i.e. as Gentiles, but being destined to return. ]#

 The Ten Tribes before their exile worshipped idols (2-Kings chs. 17,18). They were in fact pagans. For Jewish scholars who find this concept difficult to accept (as many seem to do) it should be mentioned that according to the Torah (as explained by authorities such as the Vilna Gaon) Israelite inhabitants of an "ir ha-nidachat" (city whose inhabitants have all committed idolatry, Deuteronomy ch.13) are also all considered legally the same as Gentiles, regardless of their indisputable Israelite ancestry.

In the future the Ten Tribes will return and will once again receive the yoke of the Torah. This is confirmed by the simple meaning of the Bible. The Abarbanel ("Mashmia Yishua") implies that whosoever does not accept the eventual return of the Ten Tribes in effect is guilty of denying the Truth of Scripture. This is confirmed by other sources. Rabbi Akiva (Sanhedrin 110b) is often quoted as saying that the Ten Tribes will not return. He was however (in this case) overruled by Rabbi Elazar who asserted that the Tribes definitedly will return. Later Commentators (consistent with Rashi) explained even Rabbi Akiva to have been speaking only concerning the Ten Tribes in his own generation and not those of the future. The Bible (see below) expressly says that the Ten Tribes will return and it is difficult to imagine Rabbi Akiva going against an express Biblical message. The Sages declared, "Halacha [Lawful enactment see Tosefta] the Ten Tribes will return".

The Lost Ten Tribes will Return.
In the meantime the Ten Tribes have the same status as all other non-Jews. Apart from the Declared Law there are numerous other reasons why this ruling is upheld. No living person, for instance, can prove with objective certainty that they really are descended from the Lost Ten Tribes. At the most, they may (with the help of evidence such as that produced by Brit-Am) say with a reasonable degree of probability that they well may be descended from Ancient Israelites. This is not sufficient for an individual but when dealing with whole communities in the same situation an authoritative body such as the Sanhedrin may be able to come up with some kind of solution.

At the moment it seems that all we can do is study the subject, learn the sources, and do what we can according to the possibilities we have.

Return of the Ten Tribes in the Bible.
A few of the more EXPRESS (out of many explicit and implied) references.
To see the quoted verses go to:
The Return of the Ten Tribes. Selected Sources. Bible References

Isaiah 11:13, 27:13 49:18-20. 

Jeremiah 3:18  31:17-19 50:4

Ezekiel  16:53-55 37:15-28, 47:13

Hosea 2:2-3,23

Obadiah 1:18, 20

Zechariah 10:10 (cf. Micah 7:14)
Zechariah 9:13

cf. Genesis ch.48, Deuteronomy 33 (Blessings to the Tribes in the Last Days).

'It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God or the Bible.'
  George Washington